| Stethoscope socialism
By DEROY MURDOCK
Aug 24, 2006, 17:28
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A national health-care system may be the Holy Grail of American liberalism. If only the government managed medicine, the argument goes, costs could be restrained, quality assured and access extended from the poshest beach house to the humblest shotgun shack.
On NBC's "Meet the Press" last fall, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., advocated a "universal health-care system over the next 10 years." If Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., reaches the Oval Office, she likely would take another crack at socialized medicine, as she did so disastrously in 1994.
Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research sees this model more as a poisoned chalice. Her Washington-based free-market think tank (with which I am a "distinguished fellow") has begun educating Americans on the massive belly flop that is state-sponsored health care. Wherever bureaucrats control medicine, the wise money says: "Don't get sick."
It would be bad enough if national health care merely offered patients low-quality treatment. Even worse, Ridenour finds, it kills them.
Unlike America's imperfect but more market-driven health-care industry, nationalized systems usually divide patients and caregivers. In America, patients and doctors often make medical decisions and thus demand the best-available diagnostic tools, procedures and drugs. Affordability obviously plays its part, but the fact that most Americans either pay for themselves or carry various levels of insurance guarantees a market whose profits reward medical innovators.
Under socialized medicine, public officials administer a single budget and usually ration care among a population whose sole choice is to take whatever therapies the state monopoly provides.
Medicrats often distribute resources based on politics rather than science. Government doctors and nurses frequently are unionized. As befalls American teachers in government schools, excellence rarely generates additional compensation _ so why excel? Without incentives, such structures eventually breed mediocrity. Patients in universal-care systems get cheated even worse than do students in failing public schools. While their pupils suffer intellectually, politically driven health care jeopardizes patients' lives.
For all its problems, America's more market-friendly health system offers patients better care and would deliver greater advancements if government adopted liability reform, interstate medical insurance sales, unhindered health savings accounts and other pro-market improvements. As for importing universal care, author P.J. O'Rourke said it best: "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free."
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.)
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